Medical slang: Symptom or solution?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Metaphorical language, especially the use of culinary metaphors, is ubiquitous in medical education and practice. This chapter explores the complexity of metaphorical language and medical slang and how they point to the underlying culture of medicine that distances clinicians and learners from the existential weight of serious illness, suffering, and death. It argues that practitioners’ and trainees’ inabilities to recognise the dissonance created by using aesthetically appealing metaphors to describe sources of pain and suffering is a symptom of a much larger problem in medicine—namely, the tendency to overlook the all-too-human elements of medical care. A medical culture that presents itself as objective and claims plain language and concrete thinking is the same culture that fails to account for the tension created by metaphors that render serious conditions innocuous. The metaphor or resemblance was descriptive; it succinctly captured the tangible signs of underlying pathology— and did so in a way that medical novices would remember.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of the Medical Humanities
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages1
ISBN (Electronic)9781351241762
ISBN (Print)9780815374619
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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